Saturday, August 28, 2010


This excerpt is from The Demon's Parchment by Jeri Westerson, part of her Medieval Noir series featuring the "enigmatic, flawed and sexy" disgraced knight turned detective, Crispin Guest. In this passage, it is 1384 and Crispin (called the Tracker) and his apprentice, Jack Tucker, have been hired by a French Jewish physician to track down some stolen parchments. Crispin is none too pleased with having to deal with a Jew in a country that expelled its Jews nearly a century before. He and Jack are going to meet with him in a place where Crispin is no longer welcomed.
The sun bled in streaks of faded color between slashes of heavy gray clouds. Crispin and Jack set out and walked for nearly half an hour down long, snowy lanes toward [X]. As they entered each parish, they heard the echoing timbre of church bells even above the howl of wind, each tower with its own characteristic sound. The deep tones of St. Paul’s, whose shadow hovered over the Shambles, soon dispersed and they entered into the domain of the tinny jangling of St. Bride. A few more streets and then St. Clement Danes’ urgent claxon gave way to Saint Martin-in-the-Fields’ timid pealing before even that sound was finally overshadowed by the rich resonance of the bells of [X].

Charing Cross stood rigid in the icy cold of the crossroads. Its cross and steps were snowcapped and solemn. Jack’s admonishment kept preying on Crispin’s mind: You’re taking money from a Jew? Was he that desperate? The answer came swiftly. His rent was due in a few days and he had no money with which to pay it. Martin Kemp, his landlord, was kind to him and often did not demand the rents on time, unlike his shrewish wife, who enjoyed constantly harrying Crispin on that very point.

Money. It had never been an issue before. Not before his ill-fated decision to join with those conspirators seven years ago, at any rate. There was money aplenty then. Shameless amounts of it. Wasted on trinkets for foolish women and wine with dubious friends. Where were those friends now? And where the women? He had tossed coins so carelessly to bards and beggars. He sunk sackfuls of it on gardeners for his estates in Sheen. His former manor was not far from the royal residence and appearances had to be maintained. If the king wished to stay at the Guest Manor, then it must be as well appointed as the king’s own. He recalled one year when he harassed the tenants for their rents early in order to supply his kitchens for the king and his retinue. There was many a time he had nearly paupered his own household in order to feed and house all of court. But he had not complained, for this had been for the old king, Edward of Windsor, King Richard’s grandfather. For the old king, he would have done anything. Even commit treason so that his son John of Gaunt and not his grandson Richard could sit on the throne.

Alas. Those days were long, long gone. His lands had been taken along with his knighthood, and the loyal tenants on the Guest estates called another man their lord. Crispin knew not who, nor did he care to know.
He glanced down at his own seedy coat and the sturdy cloak that hid its shabby appearance from view. Yes, that was a long time ago.
 Flurries arrived with the waning sun and Crispin quickened his step to keep warm. They followed the Strand now, heading out of [X] toward [X]. The shops and houses did not seem as crowded and the street opened onto a wider avenue where the spindly trees of gardens could be spied beyond the rooftops.

Crispin set his mind to the task at hand. What papers could a Jew value so much that he would seek him out? He must be desperate to venture from court, knowing that he would not be welcomed outside of it. He almost laughed. And to seek a man who was not allowed into court! A fine pair they were.

It was a simple theft, no doubt. Someone inquisitive about the Jew. Perhaps it was stolen as a simple prank. That made one of two possibilities: The papers were long gone, destroyed. Or someone thought them valuable enough to try to sell to a third party. If the latter was the case then they still might yet be recovered. If the former, well, he’d take his money from this Jew and be troubled by him and court no more.

So where are we? Three questions below, click on comment and have a go, even if you can't answer all three...

What city were they leaving?
What city were they entering?
What building were they going to?

Jeri Westerson's website.
Crispin Guest's blog


E. B. Davis said...

x1. Westminster
x2. St Mary-le-Stand?
x3. London
x4. Westminster
x5. Westminster Palace?

Jeri Westerson said...

Very good, E.B. Only X2 was incorrect.